At the 1925 Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes in Paris, artisans competed for awards that would proclaim their creations the finest examples of their respective crafts. The fair’s most prestigious honor, the Grand Prix award, went to Paris jewelry house Boucheron for an exhibit that included a wide bracelet composed of five black enamel plaques set with diamonds and cabochon rubies, sapphires, and emeralds. Boucheron modeled the bracelet’s irregular geometric patterns on the fabric designs of artist Paul Iribe; the smooth, domed, colored gems are set within diamond pavé borders on a ground of diagonally positioned black enamel rods. Boucheron crafted this piece with osmium, a dense blue-white element that produces an extremely hard metal when alloyed with platinum.
“I have always favored jewelry that goes beyond traditional forms and incorporates novel uses of different materials,” says New York jewelry dealer Lee Siegelson, who selected the $1.135 million bracelet (as well as a 1922 Egyptian Revival sautoir by Cartier) to exemplify the height of Art Deco jewelry design in his book The Collector, which showcases 18 museum-quality pieces collectively valued at more than $17.5 million. The assemblage spans from a mid-19th-century rivière necklace with a 32.37-carat diamond pendant to a 1938 ruby and amethyst starfish brooch designed by Juliette Moutard for the house of Boivin to a contemporary Siegelson ring appointed with an antique 2.01-carat fancy deep blue oval cushion-cut diamond. (The ring is valued at $1.726 million.) The book also includes an Art Nouveau handbag by René Lalique and a circa-1931 mystery clock from American jewelry house Black, Starr & Frost Gorham. This compendium of pieces, all available for purchase through Neiman Marcus, is intended to present jewelry as an art form. Siegelson assembled the collection and published the book to mark the 100th anniversary this October of Neiman Marcus, through which his namesake company has sold its jewelry for more than 15 years.
Siegelson, who is 37, acquired the Boucheron bracelet, which he describes as a “Rembrandt example of Deco,” two years ago. He points out that each of the bracelet’s five arched sections has a different composition, indicating that Boucheron was not concerned with how long it took to manufacture the piece or how difficult it would be to reproduce it. “The only way for a house to win awards at these fairs was to allow the artist complete freedom from marketing and manufacturing limitations to solely focus on the creation itself,” Siegelson says, noting that modern designs rarely display comparable levels of quality and originality. “We have other Deco pieces from other houses, but this really was a tour de force in Deco jewelry, and it was represented as such at the time,” he adds.
“Lee has an extraordinary eye, and we trust him completely,” says Karen Katz, CEO of Neiman Marcus, which will give The Collector to a few thousand of its premier clients. The pieces will be exhibited this fall at the Dallas flagship and then travel to selected Neiman Marcus stores. Siegelson will accompany the collection and be available to discuss the pieces’ provenances with prospective buyers. “This collection is the culmination of the very unique pieces offered by Neiman Marcus over the past 100 years, and it represents the finest jewelry that the world has to offer,” says Katz. “Lee knows the history and origins of every piece, each of which has a story to tell.”
Siegelson, available at Neiman Marcus, 800.944.9888,